Welcome to the awesome age of 4.x! After cooking for two development cycles (close to 6 months) Blender 4.0 has just been released, ushering with it a new age of Blender greatness. As the numerical milestone might indicate, this release is one for the history books: it is jam packed with the traditional Blender greatness we've come to expect from the Blender Institute and the contributors at large, and then some. Blender 4.0 is finally here, firmly planting the foundations for a new era of Blender, fantastic in its own right, and full of potential and hope for what's to come. It's bigger, better, and more impressive than ever.
Blender 4.0 is the last release of 2023, marking one of Blender's biggest years to date with its incredible development pace and bombastic new features. It's also the starting point to what is destined to be a revolutionary release series and a new chapter for Blender at the forefront of the content creation world, with Blender 4.1 already shaping up to be massive by its own right.
I could fill a young-adult-fantasy-trilogy-worth of pages with the new features packed in this release, so instead, here's a look at the key features (and then some) that stood out to us. I highly recommended checking out the release notes and the release overview for a full picture of all the awesome new features available now at our fingertips!
1. Geometry Nodes: Tools and Loops!
Geometry Nodes, its tool-set, as well as its user-base have been growing exponentially with each release. It's hard to believe that such a ubiquitous and massive part of Blender is barely a couple of years old. This release brings two massive new features that are bound to send GN's adoption to stratospheric heights: Node Tools and Repeat Zone (serial loops)
The right tool for the job
This is a big one: Node Tools make the building of incredibly powerful tools a breeze by leveraging Geometry Nodes groups, without having to go through python. These node groups act as operators that can be triggered in Edit or Sculpt modes, with more to follow in upcoming versions. Check out the video walkthrough with the developer below:
Rince and Repeat
So simple yet so useful, #repeat_zone and the most basic math, result in the feature that i hope to have in the solidify for years.
— Nahuel Belich (@Nahuel_Belich) November 10, 2023
Next up, repeat zone! This is one of the most requested features in Geometry Nodes, and acts as a sort of serial loop, where a set of nodes can be repeated a dynamic number of times. This is not to be mistaken with a for each loop, which will be coming in later releases.
2. Cycles Power Up: Going into Overdrive
Cycles once again received a massive (raytraced) glow up this release with a set of massive and long awaited new features.
Light and Shadow Linking
The legendary, mythical and ever-slippery feature has made it in: We have light and shadow linking in Cycles! This feature is pretty self-explanatory: It allows controlling objects which are affected by lights individually, allowing either for greater artistic freedom (rim lights strongly affecting a character but not the environment, for example) or to fix some typical lighting pain points such as unwanted reflections in eyes. Check out the release notes for some usage examples.
Principled BSDF V2
The venerable principled BSDF got a well-needed re-write, bringing it up to speed with the latest and greatest in shading algorithms, fixing age-old issues with energy conservation and other limitations. Practically, the new principled BSDF is more flexible and powerful than ever, now sporting new sheen, coat, and glossy capabilities. Here are some examples of what it can do now:
Filmic is dead, long live AgX
Blender now has a new default color transform that promises to be one of the best currently in use in the CG world: it fixes the "notorious 6" issues with filmic and provides a gorgeous path to white for highly emissive and over exposed areas, making it even more flexible to work with and closer to the emulation of real film photography.
Path guiding now works on Glossy surfaces as well (where previously it only worked on diffuse bounces), which can noticeable decrease noise levels in gloss heavy scenes and help find hard paths much faster, leading to better lighting and energy transport as well.
Other shading and texturing improvements
Shading and texturing improvements span far and wide this release, with new inputs to the noise and voronoi textures allowing for fractal noises, giving additional levels of detail and control per texture. A new hair shading model has also been added to the hair BSDF, and much more to check out in the release notes.
3. New Font! And other UX improvements
You read that right, when opening Blender 4.0, you will be greeted with a new font:
Blender 4.0 Alpha has beautiful tiny new fonts for the UI. What font is this? pic.twitter.com/CZXS1fVzNm
— BLENDER SUSHI ? X - 24/7 Blenderian (@jimmygunawanapp) September 30, 2023
Blender's new font came out of a discussion started by long time development contributor Harley Acheson, in which he lays out the merits of a long needed font change: Blender's previous font was first selected in 2006, updated in 2016, and hasn't been maintained for more than six years. An open source, modern, actively developed, and more accessible upgrade was in order. Enter "Inter", the chosen replacement, a well-loved open source font developed specifically for modern UI usage.
Search your heart out
- All regular dropdown and context menus can be searched by pressing spacebar
- Add menus can be searched by immediate typing
- Recently searched items are now at the top of search lists, with an option in the Preferences for disabling it
Color pick and choose
This one is bound to make more than one Blender artist shed a tear of joy, provided they are on Linux or Windows: The color picker can now pick outside Blender's window!
With the advent of the massive new Principled BSDF and gargantuan Geometry Nodes node groups controlling a dozen of parameters, a new paradigm to tame the increasing numbers of inputs was needed: Enter Node Panels!
4. Real-time Stylization with the Viewport Compositor
The viewport/real-time compositor, one of Blender's game changing new features, is almost ready to fully replace Blender's CPU compositor with this blazing fast GPU implementation. Even more nodes were added, making feature parity right around the corner, as well as a special treat: The Kuwahara Filter, a powerful stylization tool, just got a beautiful implementation in the real-time compositor, one that is surprisingly temporally stable to boot.
But wait: there’s more...
This release really has more features than I can count, so here's a few more that stood out to me:
Another long-standing paper-cut fixed: New bone collections replace both legacy numbered layers and bone groups. Bone collections can be named and are no longer limited to a fixed number. Colors are now specified individually for each bone, replacing bone group colors.
Base Point Snapping!
Another long-standing paper-cut fixed: You can now press B to set base point when you transform objects. This allows for a fast and precise snap from vertex to vertex. Additionally, you can navigate while transforming while holding Alt, and there are different snap symbols for the different snap types (vertex, mid-point, perpendicular, ...).
It is now possible to navigate while transform (Move, Rotate, Scale, Edge Slide, Vert Slide, and Shrink/Fatten), by default you have to hold
Alt and navigate.
AND MUCH MORE:
Check out the official 4.0 overview over on the Blender.org website, Pablo Vazquez always goes above and beyond with the design to show what the latest Blender has to offer. Now, time to download Blender 3.6 and put all of these new features to the test. Happy Blending!